The writing on the canvas was added after Munch had completed the painting but for years it has been a mystery, the museum said in a statement. Speculation has ranged from it being an act of vandalism by an outraged viewer to something written by Munch himself.
Guleng said the inscription was likely made “in 1895, when Munch exhibited the painting for the first time.”
The painting at the time caused public speculation about Munch’s mental state. During a discussion night when the artist was present, a young medical student questioned Munch's mental health and claimed his work proved he was not sound.
“It is likely that Munch added the inscription in 1895, or shortly after, in response to the judgment on his work,” the statement read.
Munch was profoundly hurt by the accusations, returning to the incident again and again in letters and diary entries. Both his father and sister suffered bouts of depression and Munch was finally hospitalized after a nervous breakdown in 1908, Guleng said.
The National Gallery was temporarily closed in 2019 to secure a safe moving process to the new National Museum, which is currently under construction in downtown Oslo. The museum will exhibit 400,000 objects ranging from antiquity to the present day and includes paintings, sculpture, drawings, textiles, furniture and architectural models.